Oscar History

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Entries in Best Actor (187)


NYFF: Manchester by the Sea

From the New York Film Festival here's Jason on the new film from Kenneth Lonergan.

The scene that we've been waiting for all during Manchester by the Sea comes pretty much where you might expect it to, that climactic slot about 3/4ths of the way in right where stories usually come to a head. And yet, and yet, the way that it comes showcases what makes Kenneth Lonergan such a fascinating writer and director. The way we get to this emotional head is typically, for this director, winding - the film is suffused with flashbacks that don't so much announce themselves as they do sneak in through the window and climb into bed beside you, surprise spooning you til sunrise. So when this climax comes where it should come, well that in itself is a surprise, but one you only notice in hindsight.

But it's more than that. Without going into specifics about what happens, what's so fascinating about this scene (and I'm using it as a microcosm for the whole film here) is how it lays there in wait in the broad daylight for its sneak attack. It just happens. And in Lonergan's hands this feels like the sweet hard mess of real life - broken boat motors and a bumped head; the moments where we catch up while our friend is bringing the car round and suddenly the world around us crumbles. Miniature hurricanes that don't announce themselves but sweep you up and slam you down without actually moving you an inch.

Manchester by the Sea is awash in such flashes, such sudden floods. Casey Affleck gives an astonishingly light performance of utter devastation. We spend the film putting together the puzzle of him only to find out the puzzle is broken and the pieces are vanishing in our hands as we gather them up. The actor makes us gather faster, and gather harder. He makes us want to sort it out alongside him. That his performance and the film are so much much funnier than you're anticipating only makes its foundation of bottomless grief all the more vertiginous - it is, like honest-to-goodness life, disorienting with drilled deep possibilities of goodness, and honesty, and pain.


Beautiful Teasing: "Fences" and "20th Century Women"

The latest potentially rich films to tease are two of our most anticipated 2016 features. They aren't coming out until the last week of December. We worry for 20th Century Women that it will be lost in the shuffle (why oh why this release date?) but Fences at least will win attention due to the combined starpower at its center and the event prestige of the August Wilson award-winner making it to the big screen. The terrific teaser trailers are after the jump with a few notes on each.

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Review: Sully is a pleasant surprise

by Eric Blume

Several years ago pairline pilot Chesley Sullenberger famously landed a plane on the Hudson River saving all lives onboard. Sully, Clint Eastwood's new film about the event and the man has a quiet assurance and uniquely gentle force that reap bountiful cumulative rewards.  It’s a powerful movie about big things like the value of work and personal responsibility.  It’s also a Great New York Movie that makes you feel the special spirit of the city.  

Sully’s narrative cuts back and back and forth between the hours before the landing and several days afterwards.  This temporal shifting helps to focus us on what the film is really about: how someone who performs a truly heroic act processes that afterwards...

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What Does Tom Hanks Have to Do to Receive Another Oscar Nomination?

by abstew

The world was a very different place in January 2001. George W. Bush was being sworn into office for the first of his two terms as President, people used disposable cameras and brought the film to be developed at...drug stores, and the main places to watch new films was in the actual movie theater (where the average ticket price was $5.39) and then later going to the nearest Blockbuster to rent it. It also happened to be the last time that Tom Hanks was nominated for an acting Oscar.

With a total of 5 Best Actor nominations for Big (1988), Philadelphia (1993), Forrest Gump (1994), Saving Private Ryan (1998), and Cast Away (2000) and back-to-back wins (only the second Best Actor to accomplish the feat after Spencer Tracy almost 60 years before and only one of five actors (the others are Luise Rainer, Katharine Hepburn, and Jason Robards) to have achieved the distinction in the Academy's 88 year history) it's not like Hanks is hurting for accolades. And if that weren't enough, he's even taken gold for television, winning 7 Emmys so far as a producer and director on multiple miniseries.

The Academy often has brief but passionate affairs when it comes to actors...

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Quickie Reviews: The Light Between Oceans and The Jungle Book

by Nathaniel R

Apologies that there's no big review this weekend but I do hope you'll check out the Fassbender & Vikander flick. Here are two quick takes on movie options this weekend.


The Light Between Oceans (Derek Cianfrance)
Story: A war veteran (Michael Fassbender) takes a position as a lighthouse keeper where he falls in love with a local girl (Alicia Vikander). Their lives change irrevocably when they discover an orphaned baby in a boat.
Review: A pop quiz. Which is more ravishing?

  • Real life romantic chemistry that translates intact to movie screens.
  • Romantic dramas that don't stop at sexy but get across how comforting and life-changing love and companionship can be.
  • Picturesque rocky islands and lighthouses softened at their edges by grassy tenderness and the windswept beauty of two definitely cinematic brunettes.

Trick question -- they're all super ravishing! I've heard the complaints that The Light Between Oceans is "dull" or "has no edge" and it's definitely soggier and lacking in the instantaneously memorable moments of Cianfrance's previous outings Blue Valentine and The Place Beyond the Pines. But I kind of loved it while I was watching it. At least the first half. It loses its way a little in the third act as the tragedy stretches out and the film shifts to Rachel Weisz but it's uncommonly gorgeous to gaze upon and cry through. 
Grade: B+ (maybe B towards the end)
Oscar Chances: Perhaps it's not potent enough to hold on for months to win acting nominations -- though Fassbender & Vikander are both excellent -- but I'm crossing my fingers for Best Cinematography. Take a bow, Adam Arkapaw. (His previous credits include Macbeth, Lore, and Animal Kingdom). It also feels like a possibility for Score (Alexandre Desplat) though that's a little overbearing. 


The Jungle Book (Jon Favreau)
Story: You know this one already. A boy is raised by animals in the jungle. No, not that white one with the apes. The little Indian boy raised by wolves and panthers and bears, oh my. The problem: a tiger wants him dead.
Review: Can you believe we never reviewed this? Though it's somewhat ravishing to look at as a technical achievement, in truth I was not particularly fond of it and found it difficult to write about. The problem was that it doesn't have an identity of its own to discuss. Favreau trusts that fond memories of the Disney animated classic it apes (pun not intended) will win your love. He and his team trust in this so completely that they even graft on two and a half highly uncomfortable musical numbers despite the fact that this Jungle Book definitely does not self-identify as a musical, it's one characteristic that immediately sets its apart from the original. Until it doesn't.  Great voice work by Idris Elba as Shere Khan. 
Oscar Chances: Most definitely. At least a visual effects nomination. Perhaps sound as well?
Grade: C/C+   

P.S. If you liked it more, I'd love to hear why. Its long legs at the box office indicate that it wasn't just brand recognition but actual audience love that made it an enormous hit.


Request: Oscar Nominated Performances of the Aughts, Ranked

by Nathaniel R

This list was requested by Carlos recently in the comments. Perhaps in light of the Oscar Nominated Performances ranked of the past six years... so why not. It's a perfect weekend activity and will help you get in the mood for the possibly turbulent Oscar season ahead. So let's do this crazy...


First a terrible confession for one such as I: Two Oscar nominated performances in the Aughts slipped right past my movie devouring eyeballs (the shame. the shame.) I never got around to Tommy Lee Jones In the Valley of Elah or Cooler Alec Baldwin. I accept your judgment and will choose my favorite of whatever punishments are recommended.

So let's rank the whole other 198 lot of 'em, with the caveats that this is silly (apples & oranges) and had you asked me on a different day the order might have been different though the general truth of the groupings below would stay the same. 


  1. Mo'Nique, Precious (2009) *
  2. Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
  3. Johnny Depp, The Pirates of the Caribbean (2003)
  4. Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain (2005)
  5. Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood (2007) *
  6. Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal (2006)

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Review: Spa Night

by Sean Donovan

In Andrew Ahn’s feature length debut Spa Night, our main character David is introduced hunched over in a dimly lit sauna, a towel draped over his head. The sound mix emphases his heavy, sighing breath, which is audible but blocked by the weight of the towel. In this 2016 Sundance competition film, towels become a provocative motif, suffocating expression and concealing desire.. At the intersection of his existence as a second generation Korean American and a fledgling queer man exploring his sexual desires, pressure hits at David from multiple angles. The admiring but unenthusiastic praise which has greeted Spa Night’s release is a recognition of Ahn’s exciting early command of framing and craft, but fails to truly meet this remarkable film on its own level, that of a profoundly emotional, and refreshingly serious point of view. Jump on in! The water’s fine...

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